Sleepers, awake! The Days of Awe are coming! It's traditional to hear the sound of the shofar (ram's horn) every day of the month of Elul, as a kind of spiritual alarm clock. [listen: shofar.mp3]
It's also traditional to read psalm 27 each day during the month of Elul. You can find the Hebrew text alongside a (dated but readable) translation here at Mechon-Mamre, but I wanted to share my favorite translation, which was created by Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi.
This version of the psalm can be found on his spoken-word CD of the psalms, which can be purchased at the ALEPH store. He speaks the psalms in direct, clear, prayerful English. I especially love the way he renders this psalm. Listening to him read this psalm is one of my favorite Elul meditations.
Psalm 27, as translated by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi
Yah! You are my light.
You are my savior.
Whom need I dread?
Yah, with you as my strong protector who can make me panic?
When hateful bullies gang up on me, wanting to harass me, to oppress and terrorize me
They are the ones who stumble and fall.
Even if a gang surrounds me my heart is not weakened.
If a battle is joined around me my trust in You is firm.
Only one thing do I ask of You, Yah:
Just this alone do I seek, I want to be at home with you, Yah,
All the days of my life.
I want to delight in seeing You.
Seeing You when I come to visit You in Your temple.
You hide me in your sukkah on a foul day.
You conceal me unseen in Your tent.
You also raise me beyond anyone's reach
And now, as You have held my head high despite the presence of my powerful foes
I prepare to celebrate and thrill, singing and making music to You, Yah!
Listen, Yah, to the sound of my cry
And, being kind, answer me!
My heart has said, I turn to seek you.
Your presence is what I beg for
Don't hide Your face from me.
Don't just put me down, You who have been my helper.
Don't abandon me, don't forsake me, God my support.
Though my father and my mother have left me
You, Yah, will hold me securely.
Please teach me Your way.
Teach me Your way and guide me on the straight path.
Discourage those who defame me
Because false witnesses stood up against me belching out violence.
Don't let me become the victim of my foes.
I wouldn't have survived
If I hadn't hoped that I would see, yet,
Your goodness, God, fully alive on earth.
So I tell you, my friends: you too hope to Yah! Be sturdy!
And make strong your heart. And most of all, keep hoping to Yah.
It's beautiful poetry, and it's exactly what I need to read at this time of year as the Days of Awe creep ever-closer. What are you reading (thinking, listening to, pondering) as Elul unfolds?